Episode 12: Terror on the Docks

Hutch’s childhood friend Nancy prepares to marry Billy, who might be behind a series of robberies and the murder of a cop.

Billy Desmond: Stephen McHattie, Nancy Blake: Sheila Larken, Maureen Blake: Sarah Cunningham, Hauser: Henry Olek, Earl Banks: Garry Walberg, Andy Wilkins: Kenneth Tobey, Ted Banks: Robert Redding, Father Delacourt: John J Fox, Ezra Beam: Marty Zagon, Hans Skyler: James Hourigan, Ed Jamieson: Joe Warfield, Jerry: William Martel, Wally: WT Zacha. Written By: Fred Freiberger, Directed By: Randal Kleiser. 


Filming Woes: Glaser had a cold and Soul had the flu while shooting, but that didn’t keep them from going into the water themselves in one scene. Glaser also genuinely hurt his shoulder when Soul pushed him out of the truck’s way. While filming the dinner scene at the Blake’s, the set was so cold, people kept eating the warm stew, but by the time filming started, the stew was all gone, so they filled it with chili instead. 

Both Hutch and Starsky have grown up next door with girls who have become like a sister to them, and who are now in need of their help and protection. For Hutch it’s Nancy getting married to a Very Bad Man, and for Starsky, it’s Allison in “Targets Without a Badge”. Allison doesn’t have a mother, and Nancy doesn’t have a father. Both men have nothing but brotherly/protective feelings for them despite what looks like compulsory flirting in the case of Allison.

It’s always interesting to me in the opening scene when they’re all waiting at the church for the rehearsal to begin Hutch isn’t sitting in a pew but in the aisle, on the floor. Perhaps being in a church has brought out Hutch’s rebellious side.

Sometimes it’s fun, albeit in a cheap way, to note how semantics have changed in the intervening time. “..this is my partner, David Starsky.” Hutch introducing himself to the priest. Starsky adds helpfully, “we’re police officers.”

From the Unpleasant Truth department: “With you two dressed like that,” says apple-cheeked Father Delacourt, “what’s there left for the criminals to wear?” This is patently wrong, as both are rather nicely dressed, Starsky in a suit jacket and Hutch in a dark blue hoodie and khakis. Starsky gives a polite laugh but makes a joke that may or may not refer to the criminally salacious shadow-side of the priesthood. “Muslin’s always nice,” he says.

The padre has his revenge on this aspersion on his calling: he makes Starsky stand in for the groom. Starsky rubs his wrist as if the Father’s directing grip was either painful or mildly disgusting or both.

Margaret, whom the priest rather nastily dismisses as “senile”, plays a funeral rather than a wedding march, nicely foreshadowing what is to come.

Why is Starsky there at all? Other than being company for Hutch, he plays no real role in the wedding and doesn’t know Nancy or her mother. The guys could have met up at the station later, unless Starsky is thinking it might be an interesting diversion to tag along. 

“Wipe that smile off your face,” Dobie snaps at Hutch. Hutch has started grinning after glancing at Starsky, who gives him a look that can only translate as giggly co-conspirator, which makes Hutch lose it, momentarily. We’re witnessing the genuine relationship at work – warm and private – which is normally disguised by snarky comments, sarcastic come-backs and mean tricks.

On the Waterfront: Hutch can’t know Billy that well, or else Nancy never talks about him, because he has no idea he works down on there. What does this say about his friendships here, and as a whole? Hutch strikes me as a solitary figure on the whole, capable of forgetting about the people in his life for years at a time. This is not to say he isn’t friendly, or sociable, but that he has enough in his life right in front of him – the job, and his partner – and so must compartmentalize everything else. Those compartments are small and securely locked, I suspect. 

Jerry Green’s a dope. It’s difficult to believe when, instead of firing him for being so ineffectual, they give him a holiday! Look how fast he moves out of the room, probably faster than he’d ever moved in his life.

After the truck near-miss incident, Billy doesn’t seem to be jealous of even notice handsome Hutch cuddling his fiancé. Red flag, red flag.

Cameras are an irresistible draw for Starsky, which is a good thing: he wouldn’t have seen the wrapper otherwise. 

Let’s be frank here. Billy’s really unattractive. He’s rough around the edges, has a sharp weasely face and a creepy smirk. Hutch has it right when he later says, “something about you makes my skin crawl.” I can never understand what Nancy sees in him. She’s a nice girl and can do better. Or can she?

“Man of the cloth,” Hutch calls Ezra, who admonishes him for not having the proper respect in a house of worship. The guys are typically sarcastic, but isn’t this a commentary on the church in general? The Catholic Church and the House of Horrors both as a piece of fakery and an impediment to truth?

Billy Desmond was an Eagle Scout and straight A student at the University for two years, which may help in explaining why he was able to hold Nancy’s attention. But something bad must have happened to turn him so totally crooked. 

“At the time, I didn’t put it together but I saw gum wrappers folded exactly like that at Ted Bank’s apartment.” This means Starsky is having Billy checked out even before he and Hutch go to have dinner at the Blake’s and before he understands the gum wrapper clue. What makes Starsky go down that track? Is it just general paranoia due to his job or is it something else? And just how would he know it’s Billy who folds them like that? The brand yes, but the nervously precise folding habit?

Nancy calls Starsky by his last name when calling him to the phone. Why doesn’t she call him David? Also, why does Banks call for Starsky, rather than Hutch? He’s very specific, asking for him by name.

The conversation with Earl Banks is notably well written, with a great performance by Garry Walberg. The gritty surroundings, the desperate fixation on shoes. The series has always been very good at using these small moments to reveal the terrible repercussions of crime. Two other instances of minor characters devastated by loss that come to mind are Charlie in “The Psychic” and Mack Senior in “The Specialist”.

Why don’t the thugs ask where Ted Banks is? And if they know he is dead, why are they still sticking with Billy?

The scene in which the guys are sitting in the Torino and Hutch is reading from the sports section of the newspaper is one of the most opaque moments in the entire series. “It was a long difficult struggle there, he said. Steve almost quit because he was playing behind Vince … what’s this, some Italian name.” What is Hutch reading about, could it be soccer? Starsky is enjoying himself, whatever it is. This comes off as surreal simply because there is no context offered, and is so naturalistic it could be improvised.

Hutch tells Starsky, “I didn’t hesitate about my own neurosis when I pushed you out of the way of that truck.” Which of the many neurosis is Hutch referring to? Facing death by truck or helping a pal? Knowing Hutch, both.

Why do Starsky and Hutch think Skyler is involved at the point when they see him shot? Unless they know something the audience doesn’t, he is merely an injured victim.

When Starsky throws the wedding cake in Hutch’s face, and later in “Deckwatch” Hutch tastes the pie off of Starsky’s face. Comedy staple aside, is all this dessert-slamming symbolizing the wedding custom, suggesting Starsky and Hutch are really meant to be together?

Starsky was never going to hit Mrs. Blake with the cake; all he ever intended to do was go directly to Hutch. Also, I sort of wonder whether Mrs. Blake would refer to Starsky so fondly as her “future son-in-law” if she realized not only was he not Catholic, but most likely Jewish.


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6 Responses to “Episode 12: Terror on the Docks”

  1. King David Says:

    I agree Billy has an awful weaselly face, and a hyper-edgy manner about him. I think it’s a bit of bad casting. Much better if he’d had the face of a nice All-American boy and then the personality of a nutjob. People believe better things of pretty faces. (Yes, I’m looking at you, Hutchinson.)
    There is my absolute favourite facial expression from the whole canon in this one: when Starsky admits to Hutch that he’s getting Billy (not Bill or William, which would sit better on an adult) checked out, Hutch looks daggers. See Starsky’s quick grinch of the mouth as Hutch turns away. A great Glaser moment? If you blink you really will miss it.
    I like the scene with the bereaved Dad; grief affects people in many ways. (I nowadays have the horrors with all the smoking in inappropriate places.)
    I remember how, in the mid-seventies, I was astonished with the actual wedding cake. My Grandmother made and decorated celebration/wedding cakes for extra cash, and they were always very heavy solid fruitcake, with layers of heavy icing and delicate flowers. The one here (is this representative of wedding cakes in 70s USA?) is more as I would expect a birthday cake. It’s huge, too. If anyone had been hit with it it would’ve felt like being clonked with a brick. And anyway, you needed a good knife to cut it and you definitely didn’t have ‘frosting’ on the top. The after-the-drama scene looks so unlike what I would expect to see of a wedding location, and it all seems pretty ho-hum.
    Why shouldn’t Starsky accompany Hutch to the church? You say it pretty well here: company for Hutch. Starsky wouldn’t be there if he wasn’t happy to be. Also, a) is muslin the sort of fabric priests had their cassocks made from, and b) Starsky knows fabric types.

  2. stybz Says:

    This episode has some nice elements to it.

    I think it says a lot for their friendship that Starsky tags along to the rehearsal. I’m sure Starsky was very interested to meet this people from Hutch’s past and Hutch was keen to introduce Starsky to them. The pair are like family to each other, so why not include them in familial type occasions? It seems so natural to them. 🙂

  3. Louie Says:

    I sort of missed the opportunity here for Starsky and Hutch to have a bit more of a spat over Starsky checking Billy out in secret and then trying to play innocent and get Hutch to come up with the connection instead to spare Hutch’s feelings. Starsky and Hutch don’t get into fights very often…usually this is nice, especially since TV these days is always ripping off ER…full of contrived drama between main characters. But sometimes S and H get along *too* well in situations where a fight would be interesting and I almost want to see them trash it out instead…maybe I’m missing the point?

  4. Wallis Says:

    Hm, in this episode, Starsky hides information from Hutch and secretly investigates it himself in order to protect Hutch from being emotionally hurt, rather the same way he does in Gillian (though obviously not nearly as serious or intense a situation as that one.) Looks as if there is a pattern here with him. I can’t think of any situations where Hutch does the same, off the cuff. Hutch lets this go really fast in spite of obviously being upset when he initially finds out about it. Hutch has more of the kind of personality where you would expect him to take responsibility for “fixing” things and people, but Starsky, despite his more carefree and less sensitive nature, is has this trait just as strongly. I suppose it makes them very dedicated and caring cops, but probably not the most professional ones.

  5. DRB Says:

    I swatch this episode for the scene IN the bay. I chuckle watching Hutch crawl up on the walkway; his body language says “mad, wet cat” as he heads for the steps. Even more amusing is watching Starsky steeling himself to go into the cold water. Of course, it wasn’t funny to him; he is panicking when he can’t see Hutch; but because we know Hutch is on his way, we have the luxury of the laugh. And then Hutch arrives and glares while yelling, “What are you doing?” You can’t help but sympathize with Starsky; saying, “Rescuing you, you dummy!” loses some of its impact when he’s in the water and Hutch is on the dock.

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